“Kiss me harder,” I demanded.
Caspian obliged, pressing his lips against mine. Our tongues tangled in pleasure.
He was on top of me, his hips pressed hard into mine. I could feel his bulge growing, and it made me mad with desire.
Caspian’s leg slid between my thighs, his cock throbbing through his jeans. It felt so right, but the timing was wrong.
Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to see him one last time before our big trip the following day…
A piercing scream erupted through the car, sending my head smashing against Caspian’s.
“It’s just the movie,” he said, rubbing the red spot forming on his forehead.
A horrific growl.
The terrible horror movie played out on the giant screen…some stupid story about horrific creatures invading a small town.
I looked at Caspian and smiled. “This is what you get for bringing me here. You know I can’t stand scary movies.”
He leaned down and gave me a quick kiss.
“And what’s scarier than watching a horror movie with a werewolf?” His evil smile spread wide, and I pretended to be scared.
Caspian was my boyfriend and the son of our pack’s beta.
He and I had been friends since we were little…but I’d always had a crush on him. And I wasn’t the only one.
As long as I could remember, my friends were doodling Caspian in their notebooks.
He was the class clown, and he had this magnetic energy that drew people toward him.
But I never admitted my crush. I kept my feelings a secret, probably because I realized even then how serious they were.
So on a fateful night two years ago, when Caspian told me he had feelings for me, too, I was the happiest girl in the world.
And since that moment, we’ve been inseparable.
Though his father, the pack beta, didn’t approve, we were very happy together.
I never got tired of the way he looked at me with those warm brown eyes…
Or the way he kissed my neck like that. As the heroine screamed on-screen, I felt a rush of adrenaline.
Caspian continued to kiss down my collarbone until my shirt halted him. His hand slipped under my bra, caressing my hard nipples.
His hips moved back and forth, applying gentle pressure. I felt a gasp escape my lips.
“Not here,” I cautioned while pulling his body tighter against mine.
“Why not?” he cooed into my ear. “You’re all I think about…”
I gave him a kiss and pulled his hand out from under my shirt.
“Do you love me or the thought of fucking me?”
“Both. They aren’t mutually exclusive.”
“As of right now, I’d say they are.”
Even though we’d been together for two years, we hadn’t had sex. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it, but I respected the customs of my culture.
Caspian and I were werewolves of the Blue Moon Pack. And as werewolves, we were bound by destiny to our true mates, who—if we were lucky enough to find them—would be forever by our sides.
Over the last few decades, however, it had become harder and harder to find a true mate. This had left hundreds of wolves without their mates, forced to burn through relationship after relationship, knowing they were not with their destined other half.
The Summit was created in response to this, to bring together as many packs as possible. Every year, a mating ritual took place with the aim of connecting true mates.
We’d ended up in this position, hips pressed together in the back seat of his car, because we’d been losing hope.
I watched as Caspian’s eyes drank in my body. He was bathed in the movie screen’s flickering light, a kaleidoscope of colors staining his skin.
“Let’s make it official. Right here, right now,” he insisted, his eyes intent on mine.
“The Summit starts this weekend.”
“But I love you.”
I sighed. It felt so good to hear those words. But the timing couldn’t be worse.
“The mating ritual is in a week, and we’ve already waited this long. It doesn’t make sense to do anything until we know for sure we don’t have mates.”
Caspian groaned and pressed his hips into mine one last time.
I felt the familiar burn…that inescapable desire to know what he felt like…
He unbuttoned my jeans. Then the zipper was down and his hand slid under my panties.
After a few fumbled starts, his fingers found their spot, rubbing gently, not yet entering inside.
I clenched my fingers together, digging into his shoulders.
“I don’t need some ritual to tell me what I already know,” he whispered into my ear. “You’re the one for me, Lyla.”
“We agreed to wait,” I reminded him through a stifled breath.
His lips kissed mine, and I felt my body quiver.
I wished I could be as sure as Caspian, but every time I was close to giving in, it became difficult to breathe.
What if my true mate IS out there?
It’s better to wait until we know for sure. Isn’t it?
“I fucking knew it!”
The back door swung open, and my upside-down eyes caught sight of Teresa, my best friend. She was staring down at me with a crazy look.
She swept a strand of dark hair from her face and smirked, her light brown skin accentuating her brilliant smile.
“You’re late to our sleepover, you ass,” she said, leaning against the door.
I pushed Caspian off me and quickly buttoned my pants.
“Thanks, Teresa. You really do know how to ruin a good moment,” Caspian grumbled.
“I fail to believe ANY moment with you could be very good,” she replied.
“Hey…,” I warned her with a sideways glance.
She held up her hands in surrender and walked away from the car, heading toward her own, conveniently parked only a few spaces away.
Teresa and Caspian had hated each other for as long as I could remember.
It was annoying enough that I couldn’t be around my two best friends at the same time, but it was particularly troublesome considering their fathers were alpha and beta.
“I love you,” he said again as he adjusted his bulge.
“Love you too,” I replied, giving him a peck on the cheek. “See you tomorrow.” I got out of the car and leaned down so I could see him. “And get some rest. We can pick up where we left off.”
The car door closed shut, leaving me with a pang of regret.
I knew that I should be happy—the Summit could be the beginning of a whole new life.
But that’s what scared me the most.
What if I don’t want a new life?
I watched Teresa steal away my girlfriend, left with nothing but blue balls and a lame drive-in horror movie.
The only thing left to do was to go home and get ready for the Summit.
I’m sure Dad would be thrilled if I found my true mate.
A pang of annoyance shot through me as I thought about the hyped-up ceremony. My dad’s voice echoed in my mind, a lecture he’d barked at me over and over again:
The Moon Goddess will show you your true mate, Caspian. Don’t get attached to Lyla. There are better things for you out there.
I didn’t need the Moon Goddess to tell me what I wanted.
I knew exactly what—or who—that was.
But unfortunately Lyla was just as obsessed with the Summit as my dad was.
We already loved each other.
That was all I needed to know.
But apparently it wasn’t enough for Lyla…
I sighed, putting my car in reverse and rolling out of the drive-in theater before I could get down in the dumps.
If it makes her happy, I’ll go through the motions.
No one ever finds their mate at the Summit nowadays anyway…
Teresa and I arrived back at my house well past my parents’ usual bedtime. I was surprised to see them sitting with smiles on their faces as we walked into the kitchen.
“You didn’t have to wait up for us,” I said.
“We wanted to say our goodbyes tonight, seeing as you’ll be leaving bright and early,” my mom said sleepily.
I wondered about their first ritual. How scared they must have been—the uncertainty of a future alone hanging over their heads.
My parents were high school sweethearts before they were mates. They’d always hoped that they were destined for each other.
And they were.
The Summit had confirmed what they knew all along. Their lives had been nothing but love and happiness. It was all they knew as mates.
They’d already gone through the same exact thing that Caspian and I were going through.
But will we get our happily ever after too?
I loved Caspian. Ever since we were kids, it seemed destined we would be with one another.
Will the Moon Goddess see things the same way and show us that we’re mates?
Caspian seemed to think so…
“I’ll make sure to take great care of Lyla,” Teresa said. “I know she’ll make you proud.”
“Both of you will make us proud,” my mother replied.
I was so caught up in my own worries that I had nearly forgotten how important the mating ritual was for everyone involved.
The aftermath of the Summit would mean just as much to the whole pack as it would to each individual wolf.
No one from our pack had been mated for the past ten years.
Fewer mated pairs meant fewer children.
Especially since it was unusual for a mated pair to have more than one pup.
My parents were an exception, and my nine-year-old sister, Skye, was the youngest member of our pack.
Our collective future depended on the uniting of mates to help our kind survive.
My parents gave us each one last hug and kiss before disappearing upstairs.
Teresa watched them go with a smile.
Observing my best friend, I realized that my relationship with Caspian wasn’t the only thing up in the air.
What if things change between us when we find our mates?
The next week was one big question mark.
Then Teresa turned and smiled mischievously at me, and I knew one thing for certain: we would always be there for one another. No matter what next week’s ritual might bring.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” I grumbled as the car turned down another gravel path.
We had started out early, and Teresa had insisted on driving all day.
At first I had easily allowed it; my mind was focused on too many other things. But after a few hours, I regretted ever agreeing with her.
“Oh, you big baby,” she said, pressing down on the accelerator. “If we don’t get there soon, we’re going to be late for the opening remarks!”
My stomach lurched as she blew through a stop sign.
“You’re always late,” I said through gritted teeth.
I couldn’t blame it all on Teresa. The whole Summit had me sick to my stomach. I had no clue what to expect.
Caspian, Teresa, and I had recently turned twenty-one, which was the first year you were allowed to attend.
In fact, nearly every wolf going from the Blue Moon Pack would be going for the first time.
But most of us would return alone.
At least I won’t be the only one left without a mate…
“There it is!” Teresa gasped, and I followed her eyes to the end of the road.
Hidden behind several tall elm and locust trees, on a hill overlooking the area, sat an antebellum mansion.
“The Royal Pack House?” I guessed.
Teresa had visited once, years ago, on pack business with her dad, and had claimed she’d fallen in love.
Not only with the house, but also with the alpha, Sebastian. According to her, he was the “sexiest man alive.”
“Isn’t it gorgeous?” Teresa sighed. “Whoever gets mated to the royal alpha will be one lucky bitch.”
“Maybe he won’t find a mate.”
“That kind of talk is depressing,” Teresa said dismissively. “Think happy thoughts. If a royal bachelor isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.”
I rolled my eyes and decided to indulge her fantasies, even if only for the week. “You’re next in line to be our pack’s alpha. If anyone stands a chance with Sebastian, it’s you.”
“You never know,” she said, flicking on the blinker. “Maybe I’ll be calling you Royal Luna by the end of the Summit.”
I snorted. As if.
I was probably the only girl at the Summit who wasn’t interested in Sebastian. The Moon Goddess would have to have a sick sense of humor to match me with the Royal Alpha.
“Whatever. Are we there yet?”
“God, yes. Calm your tits,” Teresa said as she pulled around another bend.
As if by magic, a large, converted Italianate-style mansion appeared. A small marsh directly behind it gave it a true Mississippi feel.
The Fleur de Lis Hotel.
We pulled into a parking space and got out to stretch our bodies.
“Told you I’d get us here in time,” she boasted.
“And in one piece too!” I exclaimed, taking my bag out of the trunk.
I looked around the parking lot, trying to identify any familiar cars. Alpha Hugo’s car was not far from ours. And Beta Alexander’s was parked beside it.
That meant Caspian was already there.
Maybe next week, when we know for sure we don’t belong to anyone else, we can finally get some time alone.
Then he’ll be bending over backward thanking me for making him wait so long.
I smiled at the thought of putting this all behind me and getting back to my old life and routines. It eased the worry lodged in my gut.
We pushed through the front door into the lobby and were hit by a wave of anxious activity.
Alpha Hugo and Beta Alexander were in the center of the commotion, expressions serious as they barked out orders.
“Dad?” Teresa said as we approached, her whole being shifting to alpha-in-training mode.
“Oh girls, thank the Goddess.” Alpha Hugo threw his arms around us. “We were getting worried.”
“Why?” Teresa asked. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve called an emergency meeting,” he explained. “Check in to your hotel room, then join our pack in the main salon. There’s been an attack on the Royal Pack’s borders.”
“An attack?” I asked.
“We’ll explain more later,” Alpha Hugo said. “Go now, meet with the others.”
Teresa and I made our way to the main salon, squeezing through the mass of other werewolf hopefuls. There were many other packs gathered there, and all of them had heard the news.
Teresa nudged my arm and shifted my attention to the top of a grand staircase. “Well, look who it is,” she purred.
I got up on my tiptoes, craning my neck over the crowd to catch a glimpse.
The royal alpha.
Teresa was right. He was a total babe.
His blond hair was swept back, his tight black T-shirt barely constrained the rippling muscles underneath, and his jawline could cut stone.
And his eyes…
They were electric blue, and I felt a shock as we locked gazes.
He smirked at me, and his cocksure attitude sent a thrill racing down my spine.
Suddenly the news of a rogue attack wasn’t the most pressing thing on my mind…
Because there was a new sensation pressing between my legs.
As if this whole situation could get any more complicated…